When I was in college I read Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness by Edward Abbey. This book helped solidify my feelings about wilderness and the overwhelming beauty and silence of wild places. The book also reveals the character of a man who challenges the exploitation of nature. At one time he was a Park Ranger in Arches National Park in southern Utah spending days wandering in the solitude. Abbey lived in Moab, Utah and I’ve always wanted to spend time in Moab because he wrote so eloquently about the land.
In early July as were preparing our itinerary for a summer driving vacation, I routed us through Moab, and we spent a wonderful two nights and two days in the land Edward Abbey loved so much. Gorgeous red, orange, purple, and sand colored rocks, in amazing jumbles and angles as though a crane had placed them in their precarious positions, but of course it was the hand of God that created all this majestic landscape.
I chose Dead Horse Point State Park to hike because of its more remote location and unusual name. Although no one could factually confirm what happened, before the turn of the 19th century, mustang herds ran wild on the mesas near Dead Horse Point. The unique promontory provided a natural corral into which the horses were driven by cowboys. The only escape was through a narrow, 30-yard neck of land controlled by fencing. Mustangs were then roped and broken, with the better ones being kept for personal use or sold to eastern markets. Unwanted culls of "broomtails" were left behind to find their way off the Point. According to one legend, a band of broomtails was left corralled on the Point. The gate was supposedly left open so the horses could return to the open range. However when the horses were found dead the gate was still locked. The horses died of thirst within sight of the Colorado River, 2,000 feet below.
The trail had amazing views with the Colorado River snaking its way along the bottom of deep, deep canyons.
The trail had minimal elevation gain and certainly was not wilderness and was not far from the sound of cars on a nearby road. In some places the trail was hard to see and in other places it was paved and more like being in a park. I don’t know if this area ever burned, but I only saw dead trees.
The tall stack of rocks to the right in this picture is called a cairn and is used to mark the trail. In the second picture the cairn was a tiny stack of rocks for which I was very glad. It would have been easy to lose the trail in this location.
Sticks laid out in a row make good trail markers too. In many places the trail looked like this…just flat rock that went on and on without any footprints.
Not well visualized in this picture, it looked like the perfect burial place for a body and so is named by me, Coffin Rock. In fact, doesn’t that look like a skull just to the left of the tree at the bottom of the picture? One could wander in this land and contemplate the rock formations for hours on end.
“Please don’t jump!” Fortunately, I did not encounter any rattlesnakes, but I did see another reptile who looked like he was ready to take the plunge.
And speaking of taking a plunge, there were areas where the drop off was thousands of feet. I’m a little acrophobic so I don’t venture too close to edges, but my brother would have been teetering on the edge to see what he could see even though the boulders were clearly in place to keep people away from the edge.
About an hour into my hike my solitude was disturbed by a strange looking helicopter flying low and making continuous passes over a certain area. Although I couldn’t explain the big white nose, I though perhaps a hiker had fallen or become stranded. I was even more convinced of this when I saw the yellow “crime scene” tape blocking my path.
It wasn’t long before official looking people with radios and earphones approached and asked me to move back to a particular area. It was then I learned Johnny Depp was on location filming scenes for ‘The Lone Ranger’ due on the big screen summer 2013. The yellow tape was to keep people out of the area because of the helicopter. Apparently, in the past there was a helicopter crash while filming a movie which killed people on the ground. However, I did get some shots with a long lens. The first picture is no big deal, but when you realize he was up hundreds of feet from the ground on an open platform and then when you see the following pictures and see it was thousands of feet into the canyon…well THAT gives me a real sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. The photo with the two x's is the location of the platform.
So after a short detour, I was back on the trail again returning to the park visitor’s center to meet my husband. As we sat talking about the hike, multiple SUV’s pulled into the parking lot and this dirty looking guy dressed in rough clothes wearing a headband with a feather gets out. He walked over to the food stand and when I realize it’s Johnny, I did get a few pictures which are not great, but I was trying to not be too obvious. Johnny is standing behind the film crew guy in the white shirt.
Our stay in Moab was wonderful, I enjoyed hiking in the land of Edward Abby with a surprise experience on the trail. Good-bye beautiful land of mesas, canyons and incredible rock formations.